COVID-19 may force millions of more children toward child labor

Millions of more children risk being forced into child labor as a result of the COVID-19 disaster, which could guide to the first rise in child labor after 20 years of progress, according to a new brief from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.

According to COVID-19 and child labor: A time of crisis, a time to act, child labor declined by 94 million since 2000, but that gain is now in jeopardy.

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“As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family earnings, without support, many could resort to child labor,” stated ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. “Social stability is vital in times of crisis, as it gives assistance to those who are most vulnerable. Integrating child labor concerns across broader policies for education, social protection, justice, labor markets, and international human and labor rights makes a critical difference.”

According to the abstract, COVID-19 could result in a surge in poverty and therefore to an increase in child labor as families use every available means to survive. Some studies show that a one percentage point increase in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 percent increase in child labor in certain countries.

“In times of crisis, child labor becomes a coping mechanism for many families,” stated UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Vulnerable population groups – such as those working in the informal economy and migrant workers – will suffer most from the economic downturn, increased informality and unemployment, the general fall in living standards, health shocks, and insufficient social protection systems, among other pressures.

ILO and UNICEF are generating a simulation model to look at the influence of COVID-19 on child labor globally. New global estimates on child labor will be released in 2021.

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